Music

Music is a universal language, and a tool which needs no translation of words sometimes. “If music be the food of love, play on”, is the first line of the play “Twelfth Night”, by William Shakespeare, and he was a man who knew a bit about drama and the human need to be calm.

We have music all around us 24 hours a day, every day. It’s playing in the supermarkets, shopping malls, radio stations dedicated to various genre, clubs, elevators, and you can’t have missed the masses of people walking around with headphones or earbuds in place listening to their favourite singers and bands. These people, whatever their taste in music, and whether you like their taste or not, are good at expressing their thoughts and inner feelings through the medium of music. Yes, it is universal.

Churches make the most of the gifts of music too, and the singing voices of the congregation, lifting their hearts and voices in praise to the Creator is a good example. We know that He is the creator of all things, and that includes music. The uniting fellowship of singing together is special and unique to the family of God. It can lift your spirits, or move you to tears, and we have to thank our musicians for using their talents in this way to foster a spirit of worship.

Good musicians don’t just happen. They didn’t decide one day to pick up an instrument and hey presto, they turned out a melody. A player of any musical instrument will tell you it is hard work, especially at the beginning, because they have to keep at it. Our faith is a bit like that. We don’t reach the fullness of our faith quickly, and in fact we have to practice it daily. There may be times when we don’t feel that God is close, or that he is listening to our prayers, but we have the assurance that He is near, and He knows our frame that we are frail. Don’t give up or lose hope. God is faithful and He will never let us down. I like the way the Good News Bible translates 1 Thessalonians 1:3 when it says…..  

For we remember before our God and Father how you put your faith into practice, how your love made you work so hard, and how your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ is firm.

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Needs or Wants?

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 NLT

Like you, I have many things on my list of wants. Our culture is driven by the marketing industry who convince us that we can’t live at our best without their products. It can be anything from a sultry perfume to a high performance car, and everything in between. They throw the line and we bite, hook, line and sinker. We are a fickle people.

The best part is when they convince us that these are not luxuries, they are needs to keep pace with everyone around you who probably have these things already. There’s nothing worse they suggest than being left behind. There are so many Jones’s to keep up with, we can’t possibly catch up unless you start now, they say.

We only really know what we need when hit with some kind of serious problem. It could be a health issue, or a financial debt, or a wayward child, or the decision to ask a Nursing Home what they could do for an ailing parent. At the head of all, there is the death of a loved one. At any of these points we are able to tell the difference between the things we need, and the things we want. We can live without the luxuries and we don’t need a marketing guru to tell us otherwise.

The Bible is so true when it tells us clearly, so why is it the last place we look for help?

Caution

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews4:12NIV

When that word ‘Caution’ is posted on a sign, and placed at any location, we ignore it at peril of our lives. There is always good reason for the sign being there because danger is close by and we don’t want to become a statistic. Sadly, it can become like an attraction to the few who want to see and know what all the fuss is about, so they throw caution to the winds (literally) and barge in unprotected and vulnerable.

Sometimes I think it would be a good thing to have a ‘Caution – Read at Your Own Risk’ sticker placed on every Bible in the land because then we might take more notice of the personal dangers within its pages. Sure, the Bible is a story of God’s love, and our redemption story runs through it like a gold thread, but the Scriptures also come with warnings.

You will find out who you are as you read. You will see the things you did in a new light, and this will make you uneasy. You will become aware of just how serious a repeat offender of God’s laws you are, and most of all it will become evident how much your salvation cost the Son of God, to make you and me free. It will convict of sin through the work of the Holy Spirit so beware.

A personal story will illustrate this clearly. My late wife had one Bible as a teenager which she was presented with for perfect attendance at Sunday School. Not long after we started to go out together, she proudly showed me her Bible. It was her treasure she said. But I noticed water marks on one of the pages, and foolishly suggested that she had let it drop in a rain puddle. With a smile and a tear, she told me that the chapter she had been reading opened her eyes to her sin, and her Saviour. The water marks were her tears, falling onto the pages of her little Bible as she read and couldn’t stop. For her, it was the power of John chapter 14. Did you have a turnaround Bible passage or life experience?

The message is simple. Read the Bible and prepare to be changed!

Vitamin Deficiency

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. Luke18:1NIV

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. Psalm34:1NIV

Are you a good patient? Or do you do your own thing when it comes to your health? Let me guess. You go to the health shop and after a lot of thought you buy some vitamins because your body needs some help. You could have an underlying condition, or you are maybe just getting older and you need these vitamins to balance your body’s needs.

More than that, you go to the doctor and she gives you a wee pill on prescription for an ongoing condition, and when you ask how long you will need to take them, she says you will always need to control your cholesterol or blood pressure.

Let me guess, when you get the vitamins and the prescription, as soon as you get home, you take them. But then you stop. Well, you think, I took the pills but now you are surprised to be feeling as bad as ever during the days and weeks ahead. I am joking. Of course you are not that stupid because you wouldn’t be so short sighted. To get the benefit, you need to keep taking the medicine, right?

So, what makes us think we should have a part-time relationship with talking to God, praising Him, or reading His Word? We wouldn’t be so silly with our bodily health, so it makes sense that we need to look after our spiritual health, and we do that in the best way possible. There are no shortcuts in dealing with temptation or those sinful desires. We must keep on taking the spiritual medicine! During my Sunday School days we would sing “Read your Bible, Pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow”. In case you still haven’t got the message, let me leave you with this verse which says it best.  

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1Thessalonians5:16-18NKJV

Renewal

Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah40:30,31NLT

You wearied yourself by such going about, but you would not say, “It is hopeless.” You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint. Isaiah57:10

We are all subject to the troubles and worries of the day as we work our way through this life.

The words of an old Gospel song come to mind:

Living below in this old sinful world

Hardly a comfort can afford

Striving alone to face temptation so

Now won’t you tell me

Where could I go but to the Lord

Where could I go oh where could I go

Seeking the refuge for my soul

Needing a friend to save me in the end

Won’t you tell me

Where could I go but to the Lord

As we get that little bit older, these verses become more pointed, and important. Energy and stamina are the bywords of youth when you can take on the world. But now, you are left with little energy and lots of memories. What was once a dreaded time of life, has now become welcome to say the least.

The renewal the prophet speaks about is not to take us back to the strength of our youth, although that would be good, it talks about having a renewal of energy to take us through each and every day without flagging or falling. Whether you are a younger person, or an older, more mature believer, we will all have enough strength for the needs of the day. When you are having a hard time and your faith is being tested, whether young or old, Philippians 4:19 assures us that our “God will supply all your need according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus.” His strength can never be exhausted! Amen to that thought.

Easy Grace?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians2:8,9NIV

…if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans10:9,10NIV

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. 1John1:8-10NIV

We know that grace is the free and unmerited gift from God which secures our salvation. We equally know that there is nothing we can do to earn that salvation. Our “good works are as filthy rags” it says in Isaiah 64:6. So, our salvation is both free and we can’t earn it. In fact we can’t even put a deposit on it to help out. Yet that same free gift to us, cost the Son of God dear. The cost was His life on the cross, but then we also know that He rose from the grave, defeating death forever, and for us His followers. What great Grace!

Ok, I hear you say, you are saying things we already know. True, but I fear we are falling into a trap which is so easy to do as regular church goers. I fear we may become guilty of accepting this amazing free gift of God’s grace, and then….that’s it. Nothing. No change. No difference in our life or lifestyle. We certainly don’t try to earn our salvation, but neither do we expect, or even allow, God to do a work of change in our lives. So we are effectively no different after salvation than we were before. Is that what our Saviour wants from us? Nothing? I think not.

Our verses talk about confessing our sins, and professing our salvation. You can’t confess or profess if you are still unchanged and holding on to the old ways. Our salvation is then on a ‘shoogly peg’ to use an old Scottish phrase. In fact, our salvation is really in doubt. Make certain you confess and profess, and only then is salvation sure and the heart pure. Any and all good works from this point on are given from a heart of love. Not trying to earn salvation, but because of the certainty of our salvation. Amen and Amen.

The Mighty Fallen

How the mighty have fallen! ‘Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines be glad, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised rejoice. 2Samuel1:19,20NIV

All state schools in Scotland will be supported to teach LGBTI equality and inclusion across different age groups and subjects, according to the Scottish government. This includes an understanding of LGBTI terminology and identities and recognising and understanding homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. BBC News 10 Nov 2018

At one time, not so very long ago, Scotland was known as a country of the Bible. A Bible believing nation built and sustained by the precepts as laid down in the Holy Scriptures. Of course there were exceptions, but in general, the church held the people to a high standard as understood by the Bible. Now, some decades later the words of 2nd Samuel ring so true. “How the mighty have fallen” says it so well, and I believe we are in the death throes to extinction and oblivion. Strong words you think? Tell me how.

Just as it was in the Old Testament, so it is today. The prophet didn’t want the neighbouring districts of Gath and Ashkelon to know how far Israel had fallen, why? Because they were embarrassed at the depth of the fall. It was true then, and it is true again today. Read the BBC report and quietly weep.

Scotland has pulled off a first, because no other country in the world does this, or has gone so far to appease the Stonewall gay community. Your children and grandchildren in Primary School will be introduced in word and graphic image of the LGBTI life and lifestyle. This is to make it easier for your 6 to 11 year olds to decide if they really are a boy or a girl, or indeed anything else in between. Instead of playing games in the park or street, or running around with your pals, these young minds and bodies will instead be grappling with the insane and unnatural world of homosexuality, and whether or not their birth certificate has the correct gender recorded.

This once proud Scot is now ashamed of the nation of his birth, and just like the days of old, instead of Gath and Ashkelon, I don’t want my neighbouring nations to know what our own government has done. Sadly, it may be more true to say that we, the people, are responsible for not standing up against it when we saw it coming. Our grandchildren will not thank us, and they will rightly wonder why we did nothing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a good answer for that question. Lord, help me, and my nation!